Africa

Zimbabwe's central bank has cut its policy rate by 50 percentage points to 150%, it said in a statement on Thursday, driven by a downward trend in inflation since late last year, Reuters reported. Monthly inflation fell to 1.1% in January from 2.4% in December, while yearly inflation dipped to 229.8% from 243.8%. "The moderation in interest rates is important and necessitated by the downward trend in the month-on-month inflation since the last quarter of 2022," said the bank, adding it expects the trend to continue into 2023.
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Kenya's central bank held its benchmark lending rate steady at 8.75% on Monday, its monetary policy committee said, saying its last hike in November was still working its way through the economy, Reuters reported. Six out of nine market participants polled by Reuters had predicted the bank would hold the rate steady, while three expected it would be raised. The move bucks the trend among major African central banks who have maintained a tightening stance into this year. Policymakers in Nigeria and South Africa hiked rates last week, while their Ghanaian counterparts hiked earlier on Monday.
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Nigeria’s sovereign-risk premium jumped the most in three months on Monday after Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the country deeper into junk, Bloomberg News reported. The extra yield investors demand to own the West African country’s dollar debt rather than Treasuries widened 49 basis points to 780, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. data. The rate on the nation’s 2032 bonds jumped 56 basis points to 12%, also the most since October. Forward contracts on the currency traded 28% weaker than the official rate on the one-year tenor.
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Nigeria's central bank on Tuesday raised its benchmark lending rate by 100 basis points to 17.5%, as monetary authorities seek to rein in inflation without choking off lending to the private sector, Reuters reported. Nigerians will head to the polls on Feb. 25 to choose a successor to President Muhammadu Buhari and the state of the economy is a major issue for voters grappling with double-digit inflation. The central bank's decision came after inflation dipped for the first time in 11 months in December to 21.34%, compared with 21.47% in November.
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Zambia's official sector creditors met on Thursday to discuss the type of debt relief to offer the country, Finance Minister Situmbeko Musoktwane told Reuters. Zambia became the first African sovereign default in the COVID-19 era in late 2020 and has been struggling to restructure debt that reached 133% of GDP at the end of 2021, which analysts have blamed partly on the high number and diversity of creditors.
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Even as Ghana takes its third big step to extricate itself from debt distress, bond investors face a new complication: political uncertainty, according to a Bloomberg News commentary. The West African nation’s government reiterated it has sought relief from bilateral lenders including the Paris Club and China under the Group-of-20 Common Framework. The move follows an offer to local-currency bondholders for a debt swap with coupon reductions and a unilateral move to suspend payments on external debt.
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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa played down suggestions that an amendment to the central bank’s mandate is imminent, while confirming that a possible change remains under discussion, Bloomberg News reported. Any change to the mandate of the South African Reserve Bank, which focuses on curbing inflation, will take time, Ramaphosa, told reporters in Johannesburg on Monday. Last week Gwede Mantashe, the chairman of the ruling African National Congress, said the party had agreed at its national conference to change the mandate, prompting a decline in the value of the rand.
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Ghana was cut to default by S&P Global Ratings after the government suspended debt payments, a move that complicates the planned debt restructuring meant to unlock a bailout by the International Monetary Fund, Bloomberg News reported. The West African nation, which has $13 billion of foreign bonds, was downgraded to selective default from CC due to the moratorium on debt payments, the credit assessor said in a Tuesday statement.
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The Central African Republic, which adopted bitcoin as legal tender in April, said on Monday it had delayed listing its national cryptocurrency token, citing "current market conditions" and "marketing reasons," Reuters reported. A plan to list the Sango Coin on as-yet unspecified crypto exchanges has been shelved until the first quarter, according to a statement posted in the coin's official Telegram channel. Also delayed is a "release" that would allow coin holders to sell up to 5% of their coins, which are currently "locked" for a year and unable to be sold.
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Ghana on Monday suspended payments on most of its external debt, effectively defaulting as the country struggles to plug its cavernous balance of payments deficit, Reuters reported. Its finance ministry said it will not service debts including its Eurobonds, commercial loans and most bilateral loans, calling the decision an "interim emergency measure", while some bondholders criticised a lack of clarity in the decision. The government "stands ready to engage in discussions with all of its external creditors to make Ghana's debt sustainable", the finance ministry said.
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